About the project
A report released by Health Quality Ontario, Palliative Care at the End of Life (2016), found that although most Ontarians prefer to receive palliative care at home, more than 50 per cent of deaths occur in hospitals. The report also found that caregivers, who play a critical role for patients with a terminal or chronic illness, experience burnout, which is a key contributor to trips to the emergency room in the last stages of life.
The purpose of the Virtual Palliative Care Project was to develop a virtual care model to support patients who prefer to receive in-home palliative care. The objectives included to enable patient-driven care by allowing monitoring symptoms from home, increase access to resources for patients and families, and improve efficiency by reducing travel requirements including for acute care. With 40 per cent more deaths expected each year by 2020, there is an increased demand for palliative care.
The Virtual Palliative Care Project was supported by technology that enabled providers to receive real-time patient-reported symptoms with alerts that identified changes in patient care needs and prompted timely reaction. The project has shown initial success related to patient, caregiver and clinician experience and has the potential to decrease the reliance on acute health services usage. The strong support reported by patients to continue virtual palliative care in the community and to recommend virtual palliative care to others suggests that this model of care may help address a need in the health care system when they are integrated into community care models and in the hands of the patient. The small percentage of expressed dissatisfaction by patients presents an opportunity to further identify how to best leverage existing palliative care teams, specialists and other health care providers to ensure necessary follow-up actions are taken and patient concerns are addressed. Clinicians reported that the found the technology useful and applicable.
The Champlain LHIN, selected as a project partner, developed a virtual palliative care model that could enable a regional system with capacity for palliative care to be delivered in patients’ homes.
Patients responded to a series of self-assessment surveys on a tablet from their home. Care providers received real-time feedback on the patient’s information which triggered specific events and corrective actions. Program evaluation included patient, caregiver and clinician experience, and acute health service usage.
OTN has made the planning and implementation tools available for Palliative care teams who want to support their patients stay at home for the duration of their palliative care experience.
OTN is available to work with palliative care teams across Ontario to provide assistance in adopting this new model of care, and improve the patient experience.